Despite what you might've heard, it is possible to eat healthier and spend less money.
To accomplish this rare feat, you'll need to plan a menu, read labels and follow a few money-saving strategies.
The simplest way to plan meals is to include a food from each of the five food groups: protein, fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy.
Look for lean and petite portions in store ads to see what is on sale this week. If you have room in the freezer, consider buying several packages if the price is really great, and freeze what will not be used right away. Check the price per pound of large quantities of meat as they will sometimes cost less per pound than smaller quantities. If the price is less, purchase the larger quantity and repackage into smaller packages and freeze for later use. Be sure and label the package with the cut of meat and the date of purchase.
Round steak is a lean meat commonly available at a lower price in large quantities. Round steak is best prepared using moist heat. A slow cooker is perfect. Lean pork chops, 93 to 96 percent lean ground beef, skinned chicken breasts, turkey breasts and a variety of fish are all examples of lean protein sources. Purchase those priced best.
Legumes, including dried beans, peas and lentils, are inexpensive alternative protein sources. Choosing legumes over meats several times a week can drastically reduce food costs. Beans can be served solo or added to a variety of dishes. Beans like black turtle, cannellini and great northern are served in stews, soups and casseroles. Cannellini beans are also served in salads. Garbanzo beans are especially good with couscous and for making hummus. Navy beans are famous in Boston baked beans. Pinto beans and rice are delicious served together in Mexican dishes. Kidney beans are especially good in chili. Yellow, green, orange and red lentils are served in soups and many curry dishes.
Vegetables and fruits
After planning the protein source, decide on vegetables and fruits to complement the meal. Take advantage of seasonal vegetables and fruits when purchasing fresh produce. These will often be at the best prices and at the best quality. Variety squashes, such as butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash, are great choices now. Sweet potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables are in season. And this is definitely the time to find pumpkins.
Many varieties of apples, pears and citrus are at their peak now. A few words of caution: Fresh foods spoil quickly, so stay disciplined to your shopping list.
The biggest waste of money is purchasing food that spoils before being used and must be thrown away.
Compare food labels of different brands and prices when shopping to get the best buy.
Now add a grain to the meal. It is recommended that half of the grains be whole grains. Examples of whole grains are whole-grain bread or rolls, whole-wheat tortillas, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and oatmeal. Substituting whole grains for some of the refined grains in a diet is a great way to increase the intake of whole grain. Whole-wheat pasta or couscous can be used in casseroles or as a side dish. These are foods that can often be purchased with coupons.
But use coupons carefully. Will the coupon really help save money? Does the food fit into a healthful diet? The bottom line is to use coupons when they help save food dollars and never for the sake of using the coupon.
Now add a serving of dairy to the meal. A glass of skim or low-fat milk served as a beverage is always a good way to include dairy. Fat-free yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese and other types of cheese are also good options.
After planning your meals it is time to make a grocery list of the ingredients needed to prepare the meals and snacks you will be eating. To ensure you don't fall victim to impulse purchases, make a list and eat a snack before you shop.
Learn with Lunch
Becky Varner will teach Learn with Lunch featuring Sweet Potato Bisque, Glazed Roasted Root Vegetables, and Carrot Muffins with Raisins and Walnuts at noon Oct. 8 in the Buy For Less, 3501 Northwest Expressway, and noon Oct. 15 at the Buy For Less, 10011 SE 15, Midwest City.
She will teach Learn with Brunch featuring Sweet Potato Bisque, and Carrot Muffins with Raisins and Walnuts at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 16 at Uptown Grocery Co., 1230 W Covell, Edmond.
Class size is limited. Call 302-6273, ext. 332, for reservations.